Workplace Bullying Redefined: What does this mean for your company?

For the first time in New Zealand, WorkSafe NZ has released comprehensive guidelines that provide a clear definition of workplace bullying. Titled Best Practice Guidelines on Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying – it aims to combat bullying by offering tools and  advice to employees and employers to more effectively deal with internal conflict.

Office Stress“Bullying in the workplace is a difficult issue for everyone concerned. It affects people’s personal health in a variety of ways, and also seriously impacts business productivity,” said Brett Murray, WorkSafe NZ General Manager, High Hazards & Specialist Services, in a press release.

WorkSafe NZ and co-collaborators, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE), stress the importance of taking early steps to reduce conflict before it gets out of hand. It also aims to reduce the risk for employers and employees of failing to comply with the duties of the HSE Act and other relevant legislation.

Now is the time to start thinking of the risks associated with your organization by exposing your employees to harm that can be seen as bullying. It’s time to make changes to your current policies and procedures regarding workplace bullying. But are you prepared to make the necessary changes? Are you able to recognize bullying in your workplace?

Some key points you need to know:

The new guidelines have adapted the Safe Work Australia definition of bullying to define it as:

“Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed `towards a work or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. Repeated behaviour is persistent and includes a range of actions. Unreasonable behaviour covers actions, which a reasonable person would not do in similar circumstances. It includes victimizing, humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person. A single incident is not considered bullying but it can escalate and should not be ignored.”

➠The guidelines outline that workplace bullying can be experienced through work e-mails, social media, Internet chat rooms or text messaging. It is not always confined to normal office hours.

➠An emphasis has been put on institutional bullying, which consciously done or not can have detrimental effects on employees. The guidelines identify it as “work structures, practices, policies, or requirements, which unreasonably burden staff without concern for their well-being.” This could take effect in company restructuring and laying unnecessary workloads on individuals that a manager may deem unavoidable.

➠The new definition no longer focuses on the motivation behind the bully’s actions that were previously classified as targeting or trying to gain control over an individual. How this new definition will be interpreted in the courts is yet to be seen.

➠Employers are responsible for ensuring employees are not exposed to hazards including bullying. Without complying to these guidelines, employers could face fines of up to $500,000 or imprisonment.

WorkSafe NZ is providing numerous tools for employees and employers to recognize bullying before it gets out of hand.  Tools for employees include an ‘Am I Being Bullied?’ questionnaire and a solution guide if the problem already exists. For employers, the guideline also offers workplace assessment tools, responding to allegations advice and a bullying cost calculator.

Recognising bullying before it gets out of hand

We have discovered, over many years of experience in working with companies, that managers often don’t perceive their own behaviour as bullying. However, a new behavioural system called TetraMap is revealing an exciting new way forward. We have seen those same managers, after experiencing the TetraMap program, gaining powerful insights into their own and other people’s behaviour; and being able to develop strategies for building productive relationships in the workplace.

Take Joe and Emily’s situation: Joe was Emily’s senior manager at an IT firm. His approach was direct, to the point and liked to point his finger. Emily’s approach was quiet, calm, and preferred to talk things out. With the lack of communication between the two, Emily deemed Joe a bully and Joe lashed out with words of incompetency. The overall effect of the situation caused Emily to call in sick, take leave and finally file a personal grievance claim against Joe. By implementing the TetraMap model, the two recognized how their individual styles affected each other and how they could create a better team harmony. The personal grievance claim was also dropped, saving time, money and resources.

TetraMap has proven to be a very powerful tool to not only reduce bullying in the workplace but also to build positive, productive relationships between staff members and management. Ultimately, this impacts the company with improved profits and increased staff retention.

To have an open discussion about how TetraMap could help reduce conflict in your workplace, give us a call on 09-579-8566 or email me.


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